Commissioned by the New Juilliard Ensemble
2017 ASCAP Morton Gould Award, Winner
2016 Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra Call for Scores, Selected Work
"Saad Haddad...achieved a remarkable fusion of idioms in Takht, named for the Arabic word for 'ensemble.' He uses Western relatives of Arabic instruments to create a convincing equivalent of a Middle Eastern ensemble. The most striking effect, intended to evoke the voice of the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum (1898-1975) and heard at the outset, is the harpist’s haunting vocalization of a drooping semitone through cupped hands into the instrument’s soundboard."
– New York Times
The title of this work, Takht (‘ensemble’ in Arabic), describes the typical Middle Eastern musical group that consists of most of the traditional instruments used in Arabic music, including the oud, qanun, kamanjah, ney, riqq, and darbakeh. In a way, the instrumentation for this work is the Western equivalent of that ensemble, employing one of each of the most commonly used instruments in the full symphony orchestra. Some of the instruments even overlap between the groups; for example the ‘ney’ is similar to the flute in construction, while the ‘kamanjah’ sounds very much like the violin. An ongoing muse in my output thus far is the voice of arguably the most famous Egyptian singer who ever lived, Umm Kulthum (1898–1975), the “Star of the East.” In this particular work, her voice, in a sense, is brought back to life as the woodwinds, brass, and harp instrumentalists literally sing and play into their instruments, transforming the hall into an abstract depiction of Umm Kulthum’s permeating presence in the lives of millions of people that continue to adore her today.
Premiered April 21, 2016: New Juilliard Ensemble conducted by Joel Sachs at Alice Tully Hall, New York, NY
Additional Performances by Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra